Tuesday, November 30, 2010
I used to wonder where comics artists came from and why one day you'd pick up an issue or a graphic novel and find this amazing artist that you'd never heard of before. Eventually I realized that these people had been drawing for years, putting stuff online, publishing it in zines, and going to cons. It was really just the fact that I lived somewhere pretty damn isolated that stopped me from realizing this.
What this means is that there are tons of work by creators you love that you'll probably never see (the awesome cover to this issue of Supergrrrl Aventure Comix is by Ross Campbell). It also means that when you read minicomics (or indeed webcomics) you can try to figure out who's going to rise up and become well known amongst comics fans.
Supergrrrl Adventure Comix (SAC) starts off with a comic by Rachel Edidin and (friend of 365 Zines) Jen Vaughn. The comic is about a hip and trendy city that has been gentrified into horrible yuppiness. It features journalists trying to prevent police brutality, references to Food Not Bombs, people fighting against a corrupt, corporatist society, and a robot. Based on this comic it's no wonder I've become friends with Vaughn, I mean the only other thing it needs is a dinosaur.
Vaughn's art is a little bit uneven here, and while I like quite a lot of the panels, there are some that I don't think work too well. Still, it is a couple of years old so it's unfair to judge her on art from the past. At the least I do want to know if part two of the story ever came out.
After that there's a pretty decent short story by Alex Wilson that seems like part of a much bigger world, a good piece on sexism in the comics industry (and how to fight it) by Mariah McCourt, an amusing poem by Kate Fitzsimmons ("Listen, please do not tell me / You were a priestess of Atlantis"), and a bunch of other stuff.
And that's the one major failing of Supergrrrl Adventure Comix: most of it isn't actually comics. I'm not insulting the poetry, prose, and non-fiction pieces included in here (some of them are quite good!), but I guess I expected the whole thing to be comics since the word (or a derivative at least) is in the title.
Monday, November 29, 2010
By Emily Davies
I keep wanting to describe this zine as "cute" or "sweet" or some sort of adjective like that. I won't (despite that sentence), because they don't really describe this zine, but some word similar, but different, could be used.
This is a travel zine, but instead of telling you what she did Davies just reproduces receipts from the various places she bought things. There're a lot of car parking receipts, but also ones for food, admission tickets, and other things you can purchase in Cornwall.
Davies also includes pressed flowers along with each receipt, which aren't something I normally look at. The whole thing adds up to a zine that is...cute or something! It's nice to look through at least.
Sunday, November 28, 2010
By Beth Hetland
I was a bit excited to read this comic as I really liked the way the cover was made (a sealable flap thing!), but I found myself fairly disappointed.
I mean, it starts off well enough (if incredibly indie comic) with some girls running through a snowy forest and going ice skating. But then it becomes incredibly cliched with mean girls (skating with your little sister makes you such a loser) and tragedy. Then it just ends. I mean, seriously, I felt as though it ended in the middle of the scene. I'm not saying that Hetland can't make good comics, just that the brevity of this one combined with the cliches and lack of originality means that this didn't really do anything for me.
(Damn, I hope this isn't autobio or something. Then I would feel awful.)
Saturday, November 27, 2010
Edited by Alex Lawson
This isssue of an anthology zine from Nottingham/Sheffield is a few years old, but still has some decent content. How much exactly I can’t really say, as I read the whole thing while kind of sleep deprived, and I have absolutely no memory of some of the pieces (the ones that weren’t amazing or terrible, though I don’t think there was anything terrible in here).
There’s a piece on a world music festival that kind of reflected my own experience at one (ie. there is no such thing as world music, you will probably find something you enjoy listening to), plus an agony aunt, pieces on films and art, fiction and graffiti in Eastern Europe, and a piece on Black Adder I seem to not have read at all. I told you I was sleep deprived, hold on while I read this.
(Like an hour later.) Oh distractions! I can’t even say I got distracted and watched an episode of Black Adder, which I kind of want to do now after reading that article. I really enjoyed watching that show as a kid.
Um, so the rest of the zine features some music and show reviews, which aren’t of punk music! There’s even a few hiphop groups in here. I’ll have to look them up later.
Friday, November 26, 2010
Reading about unpleasant fictional people isn’t something I enjoy very much, but there seems to be an entire genre of comics devoted to the exploits of people that seem to completely lack social skills. People that never think about another person’s view point, only seem to care about themselves, and seem generally rude. (No, this isn't me. Or at least I hope not...)
I was all ready to lump this comic into that same group, until I read the back cover and saw that apparently this is based on a real person and a real trip the creator took to visit him. That kind of makes me even sadder. I hope the person portrayed in the comic doesn’t really act like this, and the version in this comic is just exaggerated for comic effect, the alternative just depresses me. I guess ultimately I prefer not to know one way or the other.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
By Lee Taylor
Taylor’s zine is sort of like thinking on paper, as it collects pieces of writing about whatever was going through his mind at the time, sort of like a collection of opinion columns. Taylor writes pieces of various lengths about personal issues, modern British society, music, and a number of other topics.
There are also quite a lot of pieces of Taylor’s art, and pages are filled with pictures of hands, trees, buildings, people, and the paraphernalia that fills his life. I like Taylor’s art style which is incredibly realistic, showing tiny details and which rarely seem to include a straight, ruled line.
Taylor also includes a two page, illustrated, art how-to showing two different methods of “drawing” with craft knives that seemed pretty nifty.
There are a few longer pieces, and it is about one of these which I will now go into greater detail, as Taylor says at the end that he would “love to hear from people with opposing views on the subject”.
That subject is the concept of “promiscuity”, or as Taylor puts it “Being a slut”. In this piece Taylor writes about his opinions on relationships, how they should, and shouldn’t go, and what he thinks about people who have sex outside of relationships and those that cheat on the people they’re in relationships with. Strangely, to me, he seems to equate the two, thinking that they are both pretty bad.
In the last couple of years I’ve thought about the concepts of monogamy and relationships a lot, and the only result I can come to is that everyone is different. There are people who can only be happy in monogamous relationships, and there are those who would be unhappy in them. The idea that if you are not in a monogamous relationship with someone means you don’t care about them is one that I really disagree with. I have many friends that I care about (“love”?), but if I start to go out with/sleep with someone it doesn’t mean that I lose these emotions. There are more than six billion people in the world, and so there are many who you will find attractive (both physically and mentally) and who will feel the same about you.
Taylor says that he feels some people view sex as a hobby, something they do without the “slightest degree of emotional connection”, and indeed many people do. But just because you like having sex, and may have sex with many people, does not mean you will do it with anyone or indeed that you will lack emotional connections with them. Some people feel and act more based on emotions, some on physical feelings. To some the act of sex is one that you do to get to know people better, to bring them closer, and to make emotional connections. For others they might be solely for the physical act (sex is fun after all), but this doesn’t necessarily mean there is no emotional connection.
You may be friends with someone, find them attractive, and yet not want to be in a “dating” relationship with them. You may have gone out with someone, and found that, in a strictly “dating” relationship, things don’t work between you, yet friendship and sex still can.
And as for polyamory? I’m of the opinion that as long as everyone involved is aware of what’s going on, things are done safely, and there are no creepy power dynamics (“I’m going to have sex with everyone I want to!” “I’m going to let you even though I don’t want to because I am afraid of losing you.”) then I think it’s okay.
I do agree with Taylor on a few things. Cheating on someone isn’t really cool. If you’re in a monogamous relationship there is an element of trust between you and the other person, breaking that trust isn’t very nice. If you want to break that trust you should perhaps question why you are in a monogamous relationship with that person in the first place. Maybe that person, or monogamy, just aren’t for you. And drunk sex is (mostly) terrible though.
(I’ll point out that there are few pieces in here that Taylor wrote that I did agree with, but those are possibly less interesting to write about.)
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
By Nick Patten , Betsey Swardlick, Penina Gal, Joshua Rosen, José-Luis Olivares, and Jon Chad.
Werewolves! Oh goodness gracious me! Werewolves are awesome! Rarrrrrrgggghhh. (Though looking through this comic, it seems some variation on “Awoooooo” is the most popular werewolf phrase.)
I really liked this little comics anthology which featured comics from a bunch of different people, all of which I enjoyed. They’re generally of the humorous variety, though there is a more melancholic one, and the final one is straight up action.
The comics themselves deal with turning into a werewolf (“Aaah. I’ve vomited all my human teeth!!”), being a werewolf, having sex with a werewolf, hiding behind a werewolf, and the ever popular fighting a werewolf.
Of the stories the strangest is probably the Snoopy crossover by José-Luis Olivares, my favourite joke is the one pager by Jon Chad, and my favourite artwork in the piece by Joshua Rosen (see below), though I am wondering who did the cover as it is rad. I did like all of the comics though, and if you like werewolves you should definitely find a copy.
Who spilled my red wine?!
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
By Andrew Owen Johnston (and friends)
My handwriting is awful. Like super terrible, unreadable, I have a learning disability bad. (Any of you who have ever gotten a letter from me will know this. It is also the reason why all my zines are done on computers.) And so I can only look on in sadness and jealousy when people like Johnston not only have pretty nice handwriting but go out of their way to handwrite things for their zines.
I mean, hand writing stuff for your zine? Loads of people do that, this one even has bits striked out (and for some reason I actually kind of like it here), but Johnston has also written out interviews he’s done with Aron Nels Steinke, Lizz Lunney, and others. That’s a lot of effort (which, amusingly, Johnston actually calls into question in his introduction: “Why would anyone spend all their free time and money on something like this?”).
Johnston’s reason for all the hand written pieces are because, as he says in the introduction, this issue of Zine Arcade was created to look more “zine-like” after the first two more “professional” looking issues. The paranoid person in me now wonders if some of the mistakes in here are actually carefully calculated design choices, and on a major produced magazine I might actually believe that. However Johnston doesn’t seem like someone who would do something like that, so I’ll just forget that entire idea.
This issue collects a number of pages from Johnston’s sketchbook, but not just the usual drawings you would expect to find. Johnston has spent time to cut out and paste in pictures and images (sometimes reproduced in full colour) that he thinks are neat or that friends of his have created. There are also pieces of text (by both Johnston and others) ranging from the aforementioned full length interviews to tiny recipes for pancakes jotted in the margins to poetry.
It’s an eclectic mix, but it all works because Johnston has clearly put so much effort into the content. I know he’s been working on this thing for ages, and I think it shows; things flow together, and the notes for issue four that indicate that even before he was finished this issuehe was thinking about the colour scheme for issue four. How many other zines ever do that?
(Image by Paul O’Connell, I think.)
By Kathleen De Vere
I realized by looking at the stats that fewer people look at this site on the weekend, so I figured I'd review another of De Vere's minicomics in order to direct you all to look at Desert Bus, the charity raising fundraiser she's part of. You too can go and watch people play the most boring video game in the world for days on end, and all for a good cause.
Kathleen's comics are pretty much just siliness. This one's about her journey to the mucusea to try to figure out what's making all of her friends sick. Along the way she meets Canada's first prime minister John A. McDonald and rides in a boat with her cat.
I don't think the art in this one is as strong as issue two, but it still amused me. De Vere's art style seems to be channeling some of Kate Beaton's sketchier comics, and the Canadian history references really just enhance that feeling. I mean, how many comics about Canadian history have you ever read?
It's not as good as some of the videos De Vere does, and reviewing things your friends make is kind of impossible anyway.
Now go see Desert Bus, and donate some cash monies to a good cause.
Monday, November 22, 2010
By Emi Gennis
The comics in here are split into a few different types. First there are the "Shit I worry about" strips (one of which is reprinted below). These recount some of Gennis' fears, from the mundane ("My cat running away"), to the irrational ("Being pushed in front of the subway"). I thought these were pretty funny, and I enjoyed the way Gennis portrayed herself in them, it makes me amused to think that she's that paranoid and freaked out all the time in real life. (Though only in a cartoon way, if she really was it'd be a bit depressing. I am expressing this poorly.)
The second type of comic is pretty interesting, they're graphical adaptations of Wikipedia articles, specifically those from the list of unusual deaths. These are, as you may have guessed from the title, pretty interesting, though one is a bit depressing. Thankfully this is cancelled out by the awesome facial hair drawn in the other strip.
The third type are the diary comics so prevalent in indie comics, and recently criticised by John Allison. I actually do enjoy Gennis' diary comics though, partially because some of them feature a gigantic, talking zygote, but also because I generally dig Gennis' art.
Gennis uses a cartoony style of art that isn't particularly realistic (look at the size of her eyes!) but works well with the type of stories she's telling. Her characters large eyes are effectively used to express emotions, though admitedly those emotions are generally "surprise", "fear", and "anger.
Mostly you can tell that I enjoyed this comic because I bothered to go back and scan more images because I thought they were funny. I'm usually way too lazy to do that, so there's clearly something here worth reading.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
By Steve Larder
The zine world is incredibly tiny. I met Steve earlier this year at a zine festival in Brighton, and this past summer he went to the USA to travel and go on a zine tour with Alex Wrekk, who I met at a zine symposium in Portland last year.
This zine deals with Steve’s three day bus trip across 2763 miles of America, from Louisiana to Alex Wrekk's house in Oregon. He writes about the weird people he sees, the people he sits next to on the bus, and the people he talks to in the bus stations. Steve seems to come away with the idea that only crazy people seem to use the bus in America. At the very least the people he meets seem a bit weird, though generally travel seems to bring out the worst in people.
Thankfully Steve didn’t have to deal with anything like this, though maybe just because the security guard using a metal detector on people before they could get on the bus confiscated someone's giant knife. Things like that really depress me about the society we live in.
I was a little disappointed that the zine was mostly text and didn’t feature much of Steve’s art, as I’ve really enjoyed it in the issues of Rum Lad that I’ve read. But the art that is included is good, and Steve’s writing manages to replicate many of the horrors of long distance bus travel without you actually having to deal with any of the awfulness of actually doing so. I'd have liked a bit more detail (what did he eat?), but overall I enjoyed a zine about the part of travel most people don't talk about.
Saturday, November 20, 2010
By Kathleen DeVere
Kathleen is a member of the Loading Ready Run sketch comedy group. I think they're pretty funny, but I've also been friends with Kathleen for years, so I'm pretty biased. Here's their most recent video, which I thought was pretty great, or you can watch an episode of ENN, the satirical video game news program that Kathleen cohosts.
Kathleen also draws comics, such as this one. The comics are fake adventures of Kathleen, her friends, and her cats. This issue features one of Kathleen's cats getting frustrated with not being appreciated enough, and going off to have adventures in Japan. It's pretty silly.
The art is fairly sketchy and cartoony, though I think it fits the comics themselves fairly well. I really love the below panel that shows the cat's feelings about humans. Perfect.
The real reason I'm writing this review now is that Kathleen is currently involved in Desert Bus, a charity project that features her and her friends playing the most boring game ever for charity. The game involves driving from Tucson, Arizona to Las Vegas, Nevada in real time. The road is completely straight, there are no other cars, and it takes eight hours to complete the drive and score one point. They're raising money for the Child's Play charity, so go and watch them make fools of themselves on webcams, and maybe donate a few bucks if you can.
Friday, November 19, 2010
This zine was sent to me by Zinemonger Distro, a distro that distributes free zines. Awesome! Go check out the site to find out how you can get some!
Inside this tiny envelope is a rather innovative zine. It's a double-sided photocopy of a letter written to you. Yes you specifically, it even stars with "Dear You".
The letter is all about how the writer, Luke, just had an awesome band practice and he thinks his new band is really coming together well. His description of the practice room ("the kind of place where you end up when you are kidnapped while you are backpacking around the Czech Republic") and general word choice are all quite good.
The whole thing is more cute then amazing, but it's an amusing little read. I do wonder how much of it is fact and how much is fiction though, I guess I'll never know.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
By C. Frakes
This is a short, mostly silent comic about secret agenty people chasing each other through a house, each wanting revenge!
At least I’m assuming they’re secret agents, one is wearing a catsuit, and the other is wearing the remains of some formal wear, while the building they’re in seems to be a huge mansion of a house. It’s kind of interesting how popular culture has made me think that all those elements equal “spy”.
The art uses fairly stark black and white images, with lots of silhouettes . It’s a bit sketchy for my tastes, but Frakes does draw a pretty awesome shark.
Also, holy crap! Frakes is doing a NaGraNoWriMo! She's aiming to create an entire 100 page graphic novel in November. That is intense. My NaNoWriMo has stalled at 20,000 words because it is incredibly stupid.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Edited by Mr. T
I was all ready to write a review about how I wish there were music zines that weren’t about punk/hardcore, but then I actually sat down and read this issue of Lights Go Out. Yeah, there are the usual tour diaries and interviews with punk bands, but this zine also includes some non-punk content that’s quite interesting.
The first is an interview with Thousand Yard Stare, an indie rock band who seemed to be on the cusp of hitting the big time in the early ‘90s. Four of the band members were tracked down and interviewed independently, each giving accounts of their time in the band, and what they’ve ended up doing since then.
The other piece is a series of interviews with Girls@Play, a manufactured pop group from the early 2000s. This was not what I expected from a punk zine! Again the interviews ask about their time in the group, and what they’ve been up to since then.
I hadn’t heard of either of these bands before, but both of these pieces were interesting reading, especially as companion pieces. Neither group ever got really big, and they came into the music industry from very different directions, but it’s interesting to compare and contrast their experiences, some of which are quite similar.
The only real problem with the interviews is that they were clearly done over email, and the answers can get a bit repetitive. Still, overall they’re good pieces and must reads if you liked either group.
There are also a bunch of opinion columns (some good, some bad), a show review section done partially in haikus, and a music review section that covers everything from thrash/hardcore bands to Kylie Minogue to Tegan and Sara. Sadly neither of the latter two reviews featured lines like “It blasts right into your head and refuses to let go like a vicious little dog attaching itself to your nutsack and biting for all it’s might.”, though that would be pretty amazing to see printed on the front of a Kylie record.
Oh dang, apparently they reviewed one of my zines in issue 10. I'll have to give them bonus points for that, even if I have no idea if they even liked it or not.
With more than forty pages of content in tiny typefaces, it’ll take you quite a while to read everything in this zine, which definitely makes it value for money. I'd still love to read a zine about hiphop or electronic music though, any suggestions?
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
By Bill Volk
I worked in a library when I was in university, the medical school's library. It was filled with books of disgusting photos of medical things and didn't use the Dewey Decimal System. It was a pretty boring job, and I spent most of my time either reading books (Foucault's Pendulum in two days) or helping completely clueless medical students find books and magazines (always depressing when they couldn't understand alphabetical order or page numbers).
Volk apparently worked in a library that had books considerably more interesting than "Renal Failure". Specifically it had comic books! Not many sure, but it had some, and he had lots of free time during which he could read them.
However, one day while reshelving books Volk discovered that there were comics shelved in other sections of the library. Maus was in the history section and Volk wanted to know why it wasn't with the other graphic novels. He asked his coworkers and other librarians but nobody seemed to know (or care), and so Volk had to ask the one person who was sure to know: the undead spirit of Melvil Dewey himself.
Volk transforms his very essence and journeys through the spirit world, meeting Dewey, Art Spiegelman, and Fortuna in his quest to discover why certain books are misfiled. Alright, so it's not exactly the most realistic comic out there, but it's pretty good.
As for the art I think the most complimentary thing I can say about it is that I didn't realize this was a 24 hour comic until I sat down to write this review. Looking at it again with this knowledge I can see that later pages get a bit scrawly, and that there's a general lack of backgrounds, but none of that detracted from my enjoyment of this comic. I liked Volk's interpretations of Dewey and Spiegelman, while his own spirit forms are pretty cute too.
I have my own library related mystery that perhaps you can answer. How did we end up with books that claimed they weren't going to be published until the next year? If a book's copyright date is in the future is it protected under law?
Monday, November 15, 2010
By Ben Horak
Aaaaah, the horrible hand beast! It is made up of fingers and more fingers and nothing else. It holds things when it should not be able to. It sings all of its dialogue! Kill it! Kill it now!
Um, okay. I’ve calmed down a bit. In addition to the main character this comic has somewhat frightening looking humanoids, drunk bunny people, a giant multi eyed snake monster (who looks pretty awesome), vivisection, cannibalism, and terrible, swear-filled singing. It’s all a bit weird.
I find the character of Pinky Palms unsettling, though part of that is for a rather strange reason. The “body” features one “arm” coming from either side, and yet there are four legs. That is six fingers! You do not have six fingers on your hand! No! I do like how he later acquires wings that are also just hands, that was kind of cute.
Overall though this comic is weird, and I’d definitely rather read a comic about the giant snake monster. He (?) seems way more interesting.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Earlier this year I spent some time in Copenhagen, Denmark (I wrote about some of my experiences in my most recent zine if you're interested in reading about it), so I was excited to read this zine about an American living in the city.
Brittany's experiences in Copenhagen are pretty different from mine, and they should as a tourist won't see or do the same things as a local. They really reminded me of my time spent in South Korea: the sense of loneliness, the isolation, not knowing the culture, not being able to connect to anyone, interacting with other foreigners who for the most part you would never talk to if you were in another situation. Damn, sometimes living in another country sucks.
Brittany moved to Denark so she could be with the person she loved, and this zine deals with the problems she faces living in a country where she doesn't speak the language. Sure, most people do speak English, but not everyone does, and finding a job, or even going shopping, becomes extra difficult. Brittany talks about the bureaucracy she has to deal with, her experiences with the people that live in Copenhagen (both local and foreign born), and dealing with not living the life others expect from you.
Some of the stuff that Brittany writes about seem really odd to me. She can't cook without written translations of recipes from your partner? Had she never cooked anything before? She couldn't order an English language cookbook? She couldn't find any recipes on the internet? I mean, I couldn't cook much in Korea, but that was more due to the fact that I didn't really have access to the ingredients that I wanted, rather than any other problem. Maybe my constant moves over the last few years have made me appreciate what I do have access to instead of what I can't get.
I wonder if one of the issues Brittany has is a refusal to allow the possibility of staying in Denmark. She says a few times throughout the zine that she wants to move back to the USA, and that way of acting probably puts some people on the defensive in regards to interactions with her. (People are usually at least somewhat nationalistic, even if it's just "Why isn't our country good enough for you?") Also: Many Americans' obsession with Obama weirds me out.
Overall, I found Brittany's experiences of being an outsider looking in on another culture interesting, even if I couldn't always understand all of her decisions. Worth reading if you're interested in immigration, the idea of being an outsider, or Denmark.
Saturday, November 13, 2010
I can’t help but read this issue of Untranslated as a critique of the current wars happening in Iraq and Afghanistan. The comic opens with a group of humanoid (it’s only several pages into this that we can even tell that the soldiers are “human”, or at least very close) on a desert planet. They approach the bombed out ruins of some buildings, only to encounter a number of aliens who attack them. The rest of the comic deals with, well, “the horrors of war”.
So why does this remind me of the current situation in the Middle East? Well, the desert setting certainly plays a part, but the larger part is the utter alienness of the aliens that are encountered. They look like monsters, they dress weird, their technology is different, and their houses look strange; even their sound effects don’t look the same. And yet, we can still tell that the “aliens” we encounter in this story are mostly just civilians who have no idea what’s going on.
The “human” soldiers haven’t made any attempt to understand these other people, and the “aliens” are just confused. “Why are you hurting us?” is the unanswered question their appearances and actions seem to ask. Perhaps followed by “Who are you?”. Of course the soldiers probably don’t have any answers to give, even if they were capable of communicating. Why attack those buildings? “Because we were told to.” Why are you on this planet? “Because we are making you (and us) safe.”
Fuck, am I reading too much into this? I want to watch Starship Troopers again. (And by “again” I mean not as a 14 year old.)
Sigh. Okay, onto the art. Lando’s style is not what I usually expect to see in minicomics. It is very much influenced by European artists such as Moebius. It’s not as detailed as Moebius’ work (what little I’ve seen of it), and Lando seems to use far more use of white space in his pages, at times leaving the art to look a little sparse (though Lando has said that he wanted to use a minimalist style for these comics). Those aren’t the only influences evident in the art though, the use of speed lines and other aspects are definitely reminiscent of manga techniques.
Ultimately, as much as I love the speedlines, the buildings, the explosions, and all the other details, Lando’s art disappoints me little when it comes to the actual humanoids. Part of the problem comes from panels which involve drawing smaller detail. I found the line work at times to be thicker when a character is further away/smaller. This seems sort of backwards to me and pulls the eye away from where you would think it should be (the larger object).
I also felt that the characters seemed oddly spindly in places, with their legs not seeming larger enough to support their weight. All of this does come down to the fact that I enjoy how Lando draws the hard lines of equipment and other solid equipment, but am less fond of the softer, curving lines he uses for more pliable objects like clothing and flesh. The fact that I’ve put this much thought into the art does mean that I’ve studied it fairly intensely, which is more than a lot of comics have going for them. I really like the explosion in this panel though:
The lettering is really interesting too. As the title suggests all the dialogue in this comic is untranslated, but more than that it is almost completely unrecognizable as text at all. In fact, there are two different speaking styles here, one for each type of humanoid. That of the soldiers is the same as the one seen on the cover, two lines that turn at sharp angles and intersect with each other.
I have no idea how much thought Lando has put into this, maybe he just think it looks cool, but I’ve spent probably too much time trying to figure out if this could work as a functioning alphabet. We’re given a pretty limited amount of dialogue to deal with, but I think that it could work. I don’t think it’s an actual, functioning language in these comics as every word begins with what would seem to be the same character, but if you wanted to create an intelligible alphabet this could work.
The alien language is even less recognizable as dialogue, portrayed almost as 2-d representations of three dimensional objects. How do you think this sounds?
Actually, looking back through this I’ve just discovered that at several times the “aliens” are clearly trying to speak the “humans” language. This is portrayed in a third way of writing that is somewhere in between the two already established, and implies a heavily accented way of speaking.
Wow! Lando seems to have put more thought into this one aspect than many creators put into any of their work. Hell, even the sound effects from explosions look like they’re from some entirely different culture.
Dang, look at how much I have written about this comic, and yet I don’t think it’s really something most minicomic people are into. It’s a sci-fi war comic with European influenced art. I have no idea who the target market is, but if you’re into any of that stuff you should definitely check it out.
Friday, November 12, 2010
PO Box 74
I’m really of two minds about this zine. On the one hand it does provide some interesting historical information on the Luddite movement, including songs and quotations from the time period. On the other hand it encourages a Luddite philosophy that I really don’t agree with.
You might be hardpressed to find someone who believes as strongly as I do that our current western society is horrible, wasteful, over-consumptive, and doomed. Yet I don’t believe the answer to these problems is “destroy machines, go back to subsistence farming”. There are reasons why most people aren’t willing to go back to 17th century ways of life, and these aren’t all based upon stupid consumer goods. Hot water, access to art, cures (albeit frequently overprescribed) for disease? These are all awesome things that modern society has given us, and things that I’m not willing to give up.
Yes, our society sucks. Yes, everyone needs to work less, consume less, spend more time with their friends and family, and probably be more creative. But I don’t believe this is a one or the other option. I truly believe that it is possible to use technology to provide everyone with everything they need without harming the Earth. This would involve a massive change in how society works, and Western over-consumption (of everything) would have to go away, but I really believe it is possible.
This zine does provide some interesting information, but it also leaves out information to help make everything coherent. One section is just paragraph after paragraph of quotations with no way of knowing where they’re from (parts of the zine are footnoted, others aren’t). This section also includes references to "frames" being destroyed by 19th century villagers. These ‘frames’ were apparently used by factories in the weaving industry, however, what they actually were used for, why they were so valuable, or whether they were even that difficult to replace isn't gone into. There are other terms and events that aren’t defined or explained, requiring you to have some knowledge of 18th and 19th century politics for you to understand what’s going on.
Ultimately this is a propaganda piece and, while there is some useful content here, if you’re interested in learning more about Luddites you’re probably better off reading a Wikipedia article.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
By Alec Longstreth
I was excited to read this since I saw that Longstreth had been growing his hair crazy long in an effort to become like Alan Moore and make better comics. I mean, he’s vowed not to cut his hair until he finishes his comic Basewood. He made that promise two years ago and if he continues at the same rate it’ll be about another two until he’s finally finished. Woaaaaaaaah.
With that much commitment I was totally pumped for reading Basewood. Unfortunately I discovered that this issue of Phase 7 isn’t actually that comic at all! Drat!
Instead it’s a collection of Longstreth’s sketchbook stuff from 1995-2004. To be honest the stuff from the early books isn’t that good (and indeed Longstreth readily admits that, and of the first book, covering seven years, he only includes five pages). But as we continue through the years we can see Longstreth’s art improve, and some of the diary comics he reprints are pretty good. I liked the one about playing Frisbee in a wind storm, which featured a lot of long skinny panels, which isn’t a style you see very often.
There were also pages that reminded you of what you have to do to become good at drawing: Draw Every Day! Do it! I should do that so I can actually make my own comics, but I’m lazy! And I spend my time trying to improve my writing instead. I should really do both. These pages are pretty amusing, because they’re usually about how Longstreth didn’t actually draw anything. One of them features him about to go to bed at almost five in the morning when he realized hadn't drawn anything. Forcing yourself to draw at that point is total commitment.
The evolution of Longstreth’s art makes me curious as to how his art has continued to grow, and I do want to read his Basewood comic, but all of that is based more upon the fact that he is totally committed to getting better at doing comics (and based on the progression of the art in here he is!), instead of any of the actual comics included. The later comics, and the introduction, are all pretty good, but the art still seems to fit into the standard indie autobio style and the diary comics themselves aren’t particularly more (or less) amusing/interesting than any others that I’ve read.
If you already like Longstreth’s work then this is probably worth checking out, but if you’re new to his work I’d say find another of his comics to read. This issue does include an awesome letters page (with a letter from Jeff Smith) though; I like it when comics include those.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
The introductory piece of this anthology of prose pieces says that the issue is filled with each creator's response to the idea of ‘community’, this made me think.
Recently I was talking to someone about zines and the zine scene, and they said they found it incredibly odd that there would be events, websites, and a sense of community surrounding zines. The idea that all zinesters had in common was that they photocopied their own stuff and wanted others to read it was foreign to them. The breadth of stuff I’ve read about in zines is pretty amazing, but perhaps this person was right and what's more amazing is the fact that there is a zine community at all, let alone one as awesome and supportive as the one that does exist.
Stingray is a pretty good literary styled zine. Nothing in here totally blew me away, but I enjoyed almost every piece and think several of them are worth reading. There is an article about how London is dealing with homelessness in the run up to the Olympics (which though well written and informative probably should have mentioned Vancouver in some way), a piece about cats and how their stare at each other, a bizarre piece of fiction that involves a guy having his nose cut off, a comic about living in Stoke-On-Trent and how the sense of community there used to be about working in the potteries but is now based around “mutual suspicion of others” (and is also at least the third time this year I've read a comic that featured a Jobcentre Plus), a history of the the Israeli music scene, and more.
The piece on the evolution of Israeli music is possibly the most interesting just because it was about something I knew absolutely nothing about. It was lacking in that I would have liked some more background information (if the residents of Israel were from such a diaspora why was their music so “dominated by Anglo-Saxon culture”?) and detail (what type of music did the musicians coming out of the army play?), but it was still a good read.
There has been some effort put into design and layout in this zine, which I always appreciate, and I enjoyed the giant letters used to present each piece’s title. At the same time parts of it are strangely formatted: the intro page is littered with the >> common of emails, while there are a number of blank pages that always kind of frustrate me in print publications.
Perhaps the strangest thing about this comic is the vague sense of despair that seems to fill all the pieces. No matter who the writer is, whether they’re writing prose or creating comics, using fiction or journalism or memoir, there always seems to be a sense of confusion and sadness in the pieces. You wouldn’t immediately see a connection between someone writing about their mother’s dementia and someone else silently freaking out because their new boyfriend just bought their old boyfriend’s sweater in a used clothing shop, but put them together in an anthology like this and they all seem to fit.
It might just show success on the part of the editor that the styles of the people who have contributed mesh so well thematically, but more anthologies could benefit from strength in that area.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
PO Box 74
After that last not super awesome zine, here's a unicorn chaser bonus review of a zine I like.
Pearl is a 13 year old girl who makes a new issue of Peach Melba every month. She’s up to issue 16 or so, but I keep finding back issues amongst my other zines, and I like her zine, so I’m going to keep reviewing them.
Edit: Apparently this is issue one, not ten, so ignore some of the below content...
This issue's got lists of things that are sad, Pearl's favourite places, and things that fall apart ("Yugoslavia"), amongst others. There's also a cute little 'equation' that uses drawings to indicate that pens plus a notebook plus a bicycle plus trees equals happiness. Aw, that's awesome and sweet.
Probably the most amusing thing in this issue is in the list of lies. One of them states that Pearl “bought this type writer for 50 pence and it works perfectly”. The type written words that fill most pages are filled with weird gaps, overlapping letters, and other errors (that would make reading anything longer than this zine incredibly annoying) indicating this blatently isn't true.
I wonder if zinesters are the people that most use typewriters nowadays. I’m sure there are quite a few letter writers that use typewriters as well, but those two groups seem like they would overlap massively on a Venn diagram. It’s sort of curious that so many zinesters would find the typewriter aesthetic appealing. Considering that zines are already considered to be old fashioned just for the fact that they’re printed out on paper, perhaps using a piece of technology that harks back to an even earlier time, before the advent of computers, is fitting.
Sure, I think typewriters are neat too, but I can’t really imagine using one to write anything on. They generally require different techniques, and a lot more finger strength, than computer keyboards do. Plus removing a mistake is so annoying. I’d rather see/use typewriters as parts of artworks, rather than contemporary tools.
One of my only disappointment with this issue of Peach Melba is that, unlike some other issues, it’s only one sided. I kind of wish that Pearl had spent a little bit more time on it to make a full issue.
You don’t have to make a new zine every month Pearl! You’re already showing up all the older zinesters who only get one zine out a year, you can wait until you have a full issue! : )
PO Box 20204
This minicomic is a series of short comics strips and single panels all united in one way: they’re gross.
Defecation, drug use, STIs, incest, and penis jokes fill this (thankfully short) zine. There’re also a couple of comics which seem to think the very act of gay sex is hilarious. I’m sure they’re all intentionally offensive, but I've never really liked that style of humour. Pretty much none of it is anything I find funny or am interested in reading.
Monday, November 8, 2010
By Chella Quint
I’d psyched myself up. I was ready to read another zine about menstruation. “Let’s do this!” I said to myself. The original Chart Your Cycle zine (which was made for 24 hour zine day back in 2005) was about menstruation, and so I expected this to be as well. Thus I was a little surprised (and disappointed) to discover that most of this zine wasn’t actually about that topic at all.
Most of this zine is devoted to finding out what Quint’s friends were doing five years ago. The results are probably more interesting for Quint than me, as with no idea who these people are or what they’re currently doing with their lives, I’m left with a single paragraph about their lives from five years ago. The interesting ones feel as though they require more than a paragraph or two to tell their story, while the boring ones are, well, boring.
The most interesting pieces in here are two pieces which I believe are by Quint. There’s a piece on using an old fashioned “looped pad and belt” style feminine hygiene product, which gives an interesting look into how that stuff used to be done. There’s also an interview with (I believe) Quint’s mom, about using the rhythm method and getting pregnant. However with no introduction I was halfway through the (admittedly brief) piece before I could figure out who the people asking and answering questions were and what the hell was going on.
To be honest, I think a zine about people who have been using the Chart Your Cycle zine and their experiences with it would have been more interesting overall.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
By Sassy Spinster
Dawn recently posted an epic series of comments on my blog when I asked people to think about what role reviews and criticism played in the zine scene. I'm tempted just to say "Dawn is awesome" and leave it at that, but then I wouldn't really be holding up my end of the reviewer bargain would I?
Let's Be Happy features alternating short comics and full page illustrations. The illustrations are pretty neat. Each one of them features two people staring straight ahead. Most of them are dressed up in weird costumes (cops, clows, etc.) and we can only see half of each of their faces. It looks pretty cool, though I'm not sure how they pictures were originally created as the repro is kind of grey and washed out, which is too bad. I also wish the faces matched up a little better when two half faces meet at the intersection of a two page spread, though that's a minor issue.
The reproduction on the comics is much better, with blacks being much stronger and more visible. The comics themselves range from the surreal (fingers on a hand talking to each other, a super panda's poop turning into a monster and attacking a kid) to Wing's real life account of drinking waaaay too much alcohol.
I enjoyed the super robot panda comic, though more for the WTFness of it than anything else, while Wing's account of drinking too much is both kind of insane (I have some horrifying drunk stories, but I've never ended up in hospital) and cute (all she wants to do when she wakes up is eat dim sum!).
Wing's art work varies from piece to piece, and even page to page. At times Wings cartooning is pretty good, and even reminds me a little of a less confident Julia Wertz (am I just making this up? That's what sprung to mind for some reason). Other times (the first page of the drinking comic, though is the art supposed to represent drunk vision?) the art looks a lot less accomplished. I do really like the image below though, super cute.
Saturday, November 6, 2010
Ripping Thrash by Steve
PO Box 152
DE14 1XX, UK
You Can't Say No to Hope by Jon
This zine was sent to me by Zinemonger Distro, a distro that distributes free zines. Awesome! Go check out the site to find out how you can get some!
Punk music almost seems like the default type of music for zines. Not necessarily because all zinesters listen to punk music, but more because fans of other types of music have seemingly abandoned zines and embraced newer technologies to a greater degree.
This isn't to say that there aren't other zines about other types of music out there, or that punk music doesn't have countless websites and blogs devoted to it, just that the lo-fi, diy asthetic that is embraced in punk and leads to bands releasing music on vinyl means that zines are seen as a more acceptable form of media for the genre.
I'd love to see zines about electronic music or hip hop, but I think in the case of the latter I've only ever seen them in a museum exhibit (seriously!). Can you suggest any?
From that intro you can probably guess that this split zine is about punk music, and while I like punk music it's clearly not my genre of choice, so while I will generally read through all the reviews of shows and albums they frequently don't really register with me and I rarely bother looking anyone up.
Thankfully this zine does have content that's not reviews. You Can't Say No to Hope... begins with a fairly amusing hatelist, and is followed by a pretty awesome section about rabbits! I really love reading a zine you expect to be about one thing and then discovering that whoever made it also really loves this other thing and is going to include it even if it's kind of jarring. These pages include how to follow rabbit tracks in the snow, and some disgusting rabbit facts, rad! Plus there's an account of how Jon's football team is doing. I really find it kind of bizarre how punks in the UK frequently seem to be into football and play in leagues and follow teams. Still, good on them for actually being active.
Even ignoring all that, if you enjoy finding new punk bands by reading reviews and interviews then this split (and other issues of both zines) is probably worth checking out.
Friday, November 5, 2010
By Tom Hunt
Quickly, name some of my favourite things!
If you said monsters, comics, and cooking (or baking), you will already know why I love this comic/recipe.
The recipe is good (I just made some! My parents demand more), and it's easy enough to follow. The ingredients are all in grams, which I'm in favour of since I now own a scale and just learnt this week that cups differ from country to country (ie. Canada, the USA, the UK, Japan, and probalby other places all have different definitions of what a cup is. Canada's is best btw).
The comic part isn't very long, but it features a tiny cowboy and his dog (or possibly a normal sized cowboy and his giant dog) wondering how to make their brownie recipe more amazing. Suddenly Xipe Totec shows up and aw yeah, I love Aztec gods. Hunt's version of Totec is pretty awesome.
Though in general I really enjoy Aztec gods as they look awesome and are incredibly insane. Just read this guy's wikipedia entry: "Xipe Totec is represented wearing a flayed human skin, usually with the flayed skin of the hands falling loose from the wrists. [...] It is likely that sculptures of Xipe Totec were ritually dressed in the flayed skin of sacrificial victims." Holy fucking shit. This guy was a god of agriculture (amongst other things). I want an entire comic about him.
Some of the text on the inside is a bit hard to read, but you can read all the instructions and ingredients. My only big "complaint" is that they're not vegan, but I'm sure I can figure out a way to fix that.
Hunt also draws a pretty good robot, though I can't find it online. Apparently he has more of these recipes planned, I just hope they're all as good as this one.
Thursday, November 4, 2010
By Matt Monochrome Corina Fastwolf
P.O. Box 66835
$3, half size.
A split zine! How exciting!
You Can't Put Your Arms Around a Memory is based around the Violent Femmes. There's a massive crossword I'm not even going to attempt because I know a grand total of one song by the Violent Femmes (guess which one!). It is a good song, and I'm listening to it right now! Maybe I should listen to more of their stuff.
The other VF piece is about how Matt was introduced to the band as a teenager in 1990. It features bootleg tapes, love, and riding in the back of someone's shitty car. Pretty typical teenage experience I guess.
There's also an illustrated guide to movies about punks, quite a lot of show reviews that are a bit complainy (just be happy bands come to your town at all! You can live in shittier places), and an interview with an artist who paints the guitarists in his favourite bands which was kind of neat.
I have even less knowledge of Lou Reed than I do of the Violent Femmes, so a lot of The Lou Reeder kind of went over my head. But I still enjoyed the story about discovering new music, making new friends through it, and going to concerts. Reading zines like this does make me feel kind of lame, as it's only been in the last couple of years that I've really been discovering music (or going to shows). Better late than never I suppose.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
By Dan Berry
When suggestiong character ideas for Joe List's Annotated Weekender Berry came up with Silky Wilson. Or maybe not the full idea, but at least the name. Not satisfied with that he created this comic to answer the immortal question "Who is Silky Wilson?", and it succeeds admirably.
Silky is a gullible fop, and not the brightest bulb in the box. The story opens with him relaxing in his house, but he's soon bamboozled by a fast talking thief and is left homeless. It's up to his friend Curtains, a foul-mouthed falcon, to help him regain his home and his honour. In some places the story reminded me of some 24 hour comics, in that while Berry may have known where he was going with the story, he didn't know how he was going to get there (there's one conversation that seems to be given a few too many pages for the length of the comic). Berry still manages to pull the whole thing off, with some good dialogue that, combined with the art, allowed me to "hear" the character's voices in my head.
The art is good, and while most people would have their own idea of what a foppish dandy should look like, Berry at least manages to fulfil mine. Berry also shows good use of posture and character actions, as Silky Wilson movements accurately show his feelings (which admitedly are mostly fear) and thoughts.
Everything is coloured using a very subdued colour scheme. Muted reds, greens, and yellows are used to create an extra dimension in the art, creating definition and texture, and helping to define the characters through their clothing choices.
I hope Berry is working on more of these comics, cause I could definitely read more stories about Silky Wilson.